So we arrived a day early to take in New Orleans before the Essence Music Festival got underway. A group of well-traveled women, only three of us were familiar with the Intercontinental Hotel-all of us had stayed there abroad. I couldn’t help but wonder why a luxury brand with an international presence wasn’t quite a household name. Fortunately for me, the manager of the Intercontinental New Orleans, Andrew Done, sat down with me to discuss the history of the Intercontinental Hotel, the business of travel, and of course New Orleans.
RDD: When I made my reservations, a few of my friends had never heard of this hotel and it wasn’t until a trip to South America that I became aware of it. What has kept this gem hidden for so long?
AD: Well, we’re actually more well known in Europe. But we do have a presence in North America that includes the U.S., Canada and Mexico. We’re not a “touristy” hotel. But we are in most large cities and our hotels are generally located in the business district. Most of our guests are usually experienced travelers and they travel internationally.
RDD: Can you tell me more about the history of the Intercontinental Hotel?
AD: We are approaching our 65th anniversary. Actually, the Intercontinental Hotel was started by Pan American airlines. At the time they had routes to Brazil and they wanted to create a luxury hotel for their pilots and flight attendants. The airline industry was very glamorous in those days so they created a hotel that reflected that.
Note: ABC will debut a new TV series this fall about the glamour days of Pan American airlines in the 1960′s, starring Christina Ricci. It’s appropriately titled, Pan Am. Click here for preview.
RDD: Describe the Intercontinental Hotel Experience?
AD: We are part of one of the largest hotel groups, IHG. Which includes Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn and Intercontinental is the upscale, luxury chain of that group.
We also are proud of our Priority Club program. It is bigger than other hotel rewards programs. If there’s not an Intercontinental in the city you’re visiting, we will still offer points as part of our “Any hotel, Anywhere” option. We also have an upgrade exclusive called Ambassador. For $200 you are automatically upgraded and receive added amenities and services unique to the hotel property you are visiting.
As for our properties, we take what the city is know for and incorporate it into the hotel. So here in New Orleans our hotels have pictures of Mardi-gras in our rooms. Wrought-Iron is incorporated into the decor of the lobby. Our restaurant serves traditional French and Morrocan cuisine. So we truly try to embrace the culture.
AD: Yes. We are very proud of that. He’s gearing up for a very busy weekend.
RDD: What would you say to those who aren’t “experienced” travelers, but would like to get started?
AD: Travel really broadens you as a person. There’s more than your own city. New Orleans is a great place to visit. There’s the food, culture, and music. Then there is always a festival when something is discovered. And most sites are within walking distance. As a city, New Orleans has the unique opportunity of hosting the Sugar Bowl, BDS Championship and Mens Final 4 in 2012. In 2013, we will be the host city for the Super Bowl.
Travel is one of the largest industries in the world. It’s important that you stay with a brand you feel comfortable with.
The Intercontinental Hotel is within walking distance of the Convention Center, the Super Dome, Canal Street, and the French Quarter. We had a great time. We even saw a few familiar faces.
“Isn’t that…? Yep, that’s him.”
We’ll definitely be back next year. In the meantime you can connect with the Intercontinental Hotel NO on Facebook.